CAPTION 1: Whakatane’s Mitch Rees (Honda), accepts the prestigious Robert Holden Memorial trophy from Cemetery Circuit event organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy. Photo by Andy McGechan,

CAPTION 2: Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler (Suzuki), accepts the “Moto Twins Trophy”, for the best-placed 600cc bike rider at the Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day, from event organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy. Photo by Andy McGechan,

Good things come to those who are prepared to wait, or so the saying goes, and Whakatane’s Mitch Rees and Upper Hutt’s Rogan Chandler would probably be the first to agree.

These two men are first at a lot of things, most typically in activities that involve the racing of high-powered motorcycles around the nation’s many famous racetracks, one of them in particular evoking images of derring-do that would make even the most hardened racer quake in trepidation – when riders chase glory at Whanganui’s world-famous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day each year.

With further commitments to meet immediately after their winning day in Whanganui, the two men were unable to wait around for their respective prizegiving ceremonies at the post-Christmas spectacular, but event organiser Allan ‘Flea’ Willacy was okay with that and thinks it is more appropriate anyway to have their trophies properly engraved before handing them across.

Willacy showed up with the engraved silverware at the final round of the New Zealand Superbike Championships at Taupo to finally hand them over to the Boxing Day champions.

“Every year we bring our trophies to the final to the final round of the nationals to hand them out there,” Willacy explained.

“We firstly have the special Robert Holden Memorial Trophy for the big bike class winner and, secondly, we have the second Robert Holden trophy, which has been going for about the past four years, which is actually a trophy that Robert himself was given when he won the World Super Mono TT in 1995, which is for our first-placed small bike (600cc class) rider.

“With the main Robert Holden Memorial Trophy, it is particularly special award for Mitch Rees to receive because it already has his bother Damon Ree’s name engraved upon it and also that of their father, Tony Rees.

“We are already well on target, full steam ahead with plans to run this coming December’s edition of the Suzuki International Series and Cemetery Circuit race meeting.

“We are already talking to overseas competitors and trying to get them back this year, so we are feeling very positive.”

The Boxing Day racing on the Cemetery Circuit last Christmas had delivered everything that was expected and asked for.

In addition to wrapping up the 2022 Suzuki International Series, the Whanganui spectacular also included the famous stand-alone Robert Holden Memorial feature race, the winner receiving a trophy that is perhaps among the most coveted of prizes in the road-racing world.

“It was a great turn-out that day and just went to show that the people had been missing a great entertainment package like this,” said Willacy.

“This event has been going for so many years and I’m so proud that everybody came to the party to put this event on after the setbacks we’ve had. Everybody played their part and everything ran smoothly.”

To cut to the chase, Whakatane’s now two-time national superbike champion Mitch Rees carried on the unbeaten run he started at the series’ opener at Manfeild last December, winning both Formula One/Superbikes races and also clinching the Robert Holden Memorial trophy at Whanganui.

He had also won the series in this class when the competition last ran in December 2020 – a one-year hiatus forced upon the sport in 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic – although it was his younger brother Damon Rees who secured the Robert Holden Memorial trophy on that occasion.

Credit: Words and photos by Andy McGechan,